Even though we all define “rich” differently — and we should — most of us factor at least some degree of wealth into our equations.
Yet we also want to feel successful. You don’t have to make a lot of money to be a success.
And we definitely want to be happy.
Can you have all three? Sure. It isn’t easy, but it is possible. Here’s how:
1. Stop focusing on money.
While it sounds counterintuitive, maintaining a laser-like focus on how much you make distracts you from doing the things that truly contribute to building and growing wealth.
So shift your perspective. See money not as the primary goal but as a byproduct of doing the right things.
2. Start tracking how many people you help, if only in a small way.
The most successful people I know — both financially and in other ways — are shockingly helpful. They’re incredibly good at understanding other people and helping them achieve their goals. They know their success is ultimately based on the success of the people around them.
So they work hard to make other people successful: their employees, their customers, their vendors and suppliers… because they know if they can do that then their own success will surely follow.
And they will have built a business — or a career — they can be truly proud of.
3. Stop thinking about money and start thinking about service.
When you only have a few customers and your goal is to make a lot of money, you need to find ways to squeeze every last dollar out of every transaction.
But when you find a way to serve a million people, many other benefits follow. Word of mouth is hugely magnified. The feedback you receive is exponentially greater — and so are your opportunities to improve your products and services. You get to hire more employees and benefit from their experience, their skills, and their overall awesomeness.
And in time, your business becomes something you never dreamed of — because your customers and your employees have taken you to places you couldn’t even imagine.
Serve a million people — and serve them really well — and the money will follow.
4. See making money as a way to make more things.
Generally speaking, there are two types of people. One makes things because they want to make money; the more things they make, the more money they make. What they make doesn’t really matter that much to them — they’ll make anything as long as it pays.
The other wants to make money because it allows them to make more things. They want to improve their product. They want to extend their line. They want to write another book, record another song, produce another movie. They love what they make and they see making money as a way to do even more of what they love. They dream of building a company that makes the best things possible… and making money is the way to fuel that dream and build that company they love.
While it is certainly possible to find that one product that everyone wants and grow rich by selling that product… most successful businesses evolve and grow and, as they make money, reinvest that money in a relentless pursuit of excellence.
Like Walt Disney said, “We don’t make movies to make money, we make money to make more movies.”
5. Find your happiness in the success of others.
Great business teams win because their most talented members are willing to sacrifice to make others happy. Great teams are made up of employees who help each other, know their roles, set aside personal goals, and value team success over everything else.
Where does that attitude come from? You. Almost every truly successful entrepreneur feels a major chunk of his or her happiness comes from enjoying the success of employees and customers.
6. Cultivate dignity and respect.
Providing employees with higher pay, better benefits, and greater opportunities is certainly important. But no level of pay and benefits can overcome damage to self-esteem and self-worth.
The most important thing truly successful entrepreneurs provide employees, customers, vendors — everyone they meet — is dignity.
And so should you, because when you do, everything else follows.
7. Do one thing better…
Pick one thing you’re already better at than most people. Just. One. Thing. Become maniacally focused at doing that one thing. Work. Train. Learn. Practice. Evaluate. Refine. Be ruthlessly self-critical, not in a masochistic way but to ensure you continue to work to improve every aspect of that one thing.
Financially successful people do at least one thing better than just about everyone around them. (Of course it helps if you pick something to be great at that the world also values–and will pay for.)
Excellence is its own reward, but excellence also commands higher pay–and greater respect, greater feelings of self-worth, greater fulfillment, a greater sense of achievement…all of which make you rich in non-monetary terms.
8. Then list the best people at that one thing…
How did you choose them? How did you determine who was the best? How did you measure their success?
Use those criteria to track your own progress towards becoming the best at what you choose.
If you’re a developer, it could be the number of people who use your software. If you’re a leader, it could be the number of people you train and mentor to reach their goals. If you’re an online retailer, it could be conversion rate or sales per transaction or on-time shipping…
Don’t just admire successful people. Take a close look at what makes them successful. Then use those criteria to help create your own measures of success. And then…
9. Then do more of what you do best.
Another benefit of building a team is that it allows you to do a lot more of what you do best.
Say you’re great at selling. Why perform admin tasks when your time is better spent with customers? Or maybe you’re great at creating awesome processes. Why spend time creating social-media marketing campaigns when you could be streamlining your distribution channel?
Every person has something they do that makes the biggest difference on their personal bottom lines. The most successful people find ways to do a lot more of that… and a lot less of everything else.
10. Relentlessly track your progress.
We tend to become what we measure, so track your progress at least once a week against your key measures.
Maybe you’ll measure how many people you help. Maybe you’ll measure how many customers you serve. Maybe you’ll check off the key steps on your journey to becoming the world’s best at the thing you chose.
More likely, you’ll measure a combination of these, and more.
11. Build routines that ensure your success.
Never forget that achieving a goal is based on creating routines. Say you want to write a 300-page book. That’s your goal. Your system to achieve that goal could be to write four pages a day — that’s your routine.
Thinking about your goal won’t get you to a finished manuscript, but sticking faithfully to your routine will.
Or say you want to land 50 new customers. That’s your goal; your routine is to contact a certain number of leads per day, check in with a certain number of current customers, network with a certain number of potential partners… your routine is what you will do, without fail, that will allow you to achieve your goal. Follow that routine and faithfully meet your deadlines and if your plan is great, you will land your new customers.
Wishing and hoping won’t get you there. Sticking to your routine will, especially when you ruthlessly measure your progress, fix what doesn’t work, and improve and repeat what does work. Success is almost guaranteed when you refine and revise and adapt and work hard every day to be better than you were yesterday.
And probably without even noticing, you’ll also be rich — and more importantly, a lot happier, because you’ll like how you got there.
Jeff Haden is a ghostwriter and Inc. Magazine columnist.